SEATTLE – The good news – if you’re inclined to read much into Pro Bowl picks – is that the Seahawks are still regarded as having their fair share of talent despite a perception they are on the way down.
Four players – safety Earl Thomas, tight end Jimmy Graham, quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner – were named to the NFC team on Tuesday night with Thomas as a starter.
Four others were named as alternates – receiver Doug Baldwin, defensive lineman Michael Bennett, safety Kam Chancellor and returner Tyler Lockett. Assuming a few players from other teams pull out of the Pro Bowl, then the Seahawks could again approach the seven players in the game of each of the last three seasons, which equaled a team record (obviously, Chancellor won’t be one of them as he is out for the season with a neck injury).
The bad news?
The selections continued a trend in which no one the Seahawks have drafted since 2013 has been named to the Pro Bowl as a position player. Graham was acquired by Seattle via trade in 2015, having already made it to three Pro Bowls. And Lockett, a 2015 third-round pick, has one Pro Bowl appearance already as a returner (and there were probably more than a few Seahawks fans surprised to see the names of both Graham and Lockett show up where they did on Tuesday).
But otherwise, the picks show that Seattle is still living off the heady drafts of 2010-12 as well as the free agent class of 2013 (Bennett and Cliff Avril, specifically).
In fact, Graham and Lockett are the only two players the team has acquired in any manner since March of 2013 who have made a Pro Bowl as a Seahawk.
The hope heading into 2017 was that maybe that trend would change this year.
That maybe Justin Britt, a 2014 second-rounder, would emerge as a true Pro Bowl-type player, or maybe defensive end Frank Clark, a 2015 second-rounder.
Or that maybe a member of the 2016 class would take the kind of huge leap that Chancellor and Richard Sherman did in their second seasons, when each won either Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors for the first time.
Instead, the Pro Bowl picks gave a further illustration to what may be the most fundamental issue with the organization right now – a lack of real impact (as of yet, anyway) from the last five drafts, and specifically the 2013-15 years that would ideally be serving as the core of the roster at the moment.
This was a team largely built through the first three drafts of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, when the team selected seven players who would later go on to make at least one Pro Bowl as a Seahawk – OT Russell Okung, Thomas and Chancellor in 2010; Sherman and LB K.J. Wright in 2011; and Wilson and Wagner in 2012. Another, Baldwin, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011. (Also a part of that haul was receiver Golden Tate in 2010, who has made one Pro Bowl with Detroit).
Throw in the trade for Marshawn Lynch in the fall of 2010, the signing of Michael Robinson in 2010 and Brandon Browner in 2011, and the signings of Avril and Bennett in March 2013, and the team acquired 14 future Pro Bowlers in the span of about 35 months from the 2010 draft to the spring of 2013.
Other than Browner (who was suspended for the game) all were essentially starters for the Super Bowl win over Denver in February 2014 (Avril and Bennett were each technically backups that season but played starter’s snaps).
It was a dizzying run of elite player acquisition that ranks among the best hauls for any team in NFL history and logically was never going to be sustained for long.
But few probably figured it would go in reverse quite the way it has.
Of 49 players drafted since 2013, only Lockett has made a Pro Bowl and the only other to earn even an alternate nomination is Britt, who did so last season.
And as noted, the only other player added in any manner during that time who has made a Pro Bowl as a Seahawk is Graham, who came at the high cost of center Max Unger (himself a two-time Pro Bowl pick taken in 2009, the year before Carroll and Schneider arrived) and a first-round pick (with Seattle also getting back a fourth-rounder).
The team’s current struggles may really be as simple as the juxtaposition in the success rates of the 2010-12 classes and those since then.
Not only have the Seahawks not added anyone who has yet emerged as truly elite via the draft since 2013 (acknowledging that it’s too soon to truly judge the 2016 and 2017 classes, though the early trends on ’16 aren’t overly encouraging) but even the overall numbers contributing are lacking.
Of 49 players taken in those drafts, just 18 were on the active roster Sunday with seven as starters.
Twelve of that group who were on the active roster Sunday are from the 2016-17 classes, including eight rookies.
Maybe most telling is that just five of 28 players drafted from 2013-15 remain with the team – TE Luke Willson, Britt, WR Paul Richardson, Clark and Lockett – with just five players from the 10-man 2016 draft class currently contributing in any manner (OL Germain Ifedi, DT Jarran Reed, TE Nick Vannett, DL Quinton Jefferson and OL Joey Hunt).
As those numbers show, the elite Seattle players are largely either aging or hurt while the younger players the team has added in recent years haven’t – or have yet to – prove to have similar ability.
Any search for reasons for what happened in Sunday’s 42-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams begins, and maybe even ends, right there.
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